Went to the Apple shop in SoHo. The thing's housed in converted post office station. The century old building's semi-Federalist exteriors – including the "Station A" bearing mini-pediment above the front doors and "United States Postal Service" carved in relief across the Prince-side face of the building – was completely preserved. The only signage the Apple folks put up is two fairly small black and white hanging signs, one on Prince and one on Greene. The inside was completely gutted and turned into the sort of retail space one imagines was what "The Future!" looked like in the heads 1960s minimalists interior designers. If you went shopping for your computer inside the Monolith, you'd find yourself in the SoHo Apple store. The shop covers two floors, the first being dominated by a large, clear plastic staircase set dead in the middle of the shop. Devious pervs are prevented from using this transparent stairway as the ultimate upskirt environ by glass barriers on either side of the steps. Because they keep the glass so clean, they've had to put a row of small grey Apple logos on the glass, the way bird decals are stuck on large bay windows, to prevent folks who aren't paying attention from smashing into the otherwise near invisible barriers.
May and I knew exactly what we needed to get, so it was a pretty much in and done sort of thing. While our "genius" gathered up our purchases, I noticed three NYPD officers standing in front of a poster showing the taxonomy of the phylum iGadgeta, starting with the basic single-celled members of the genus iPod and branching to the various iSpecies of touches and phones and whatnot.
From what I could make out, they had some incident report that involved an i-something, but it was unclear just which i-thing they were talking about.
"Well, shit. How are you supposed to tell the difference between these two by just looking?"
"It's got a swing out door like thing, right?"
"Maybe it was one of these little ones. They said it was small."
"They're all small. Pretty small. These is all, like, pictured bigger than they really are."
"I don't think that's a swing out. I think. I think that's just the same thing turned on its side."
"I still think it might be one of the little ones over here. What color did they say it was?"
They all leaned back a bit and cocked their heads to get a better look at the available colors.
"Well . . . that's . . . um . . . no help."
"Look, there's only one with the phone in it. So when you think you got the guy, tell him you're going to put him under. Tell him that, you was him, you'd be lawyering up. And then say, 'You can use your phone.' Then baa-baaa-bbaa-bwwwwaaammm bust his sorry butt when he breaks this shit out."
"Why do you think it’s the phone one?"
Riding home on the train somebody had sticker-bombed the D with a small black rectangular sticker with white lettering:
the cops love to cock block me
Then, offset a bit on the next line, as if to indicate "signed":
Went to a party organized by my wife for her bookshop. One of the highlights of the night was a Ouija board session run by this cat named Mitchell Horowitz, head of one of Penguin Presses many imprints and occult enthusiast, and a spirit medium who was quite funny and charming but whose name, because I'm a complete dunce, I've totally forgotten.
Horowitz was going to try to contact America's homegrown patron saint of Halloween festivities: Edgar Allan Poe.
May's shop isn't too far from West 4th, were many scholars say Poe spent several years. The building is now gone. That bastion of learning, New York University bought it, tore it down, and erected an office building were it once stood. Horowitz opined that the absence of an actual building wouldn't be a problem from a spiritual perspective, but that the absence of an actual Poe might. While hardly the academic debate of the century, there's more than one scholar who thinks the "Poe house" NYU tore down was a sham. Historians and journalists tend to copy one another's work, building up the historical record by cementing the scattered facts of the past with the assertions that harden through repetition. The facts make a slim case for any particular Poe residence. The 4th street address was, perhaps, 10% records and 90% tradition. For reasons understood only by those with profound connections beyond the mortal realm, the effort at contacting Poe would be bust if he hadn't actually lived close by. It would seem that the distance between life and death is easier to travel than four or five blocks of Manhattan.
After several minutes of concentration, Poe was a no show. Horowitz and his cohorts, which included a volunteer from the audience who arrived dressed as Mrs. Beazley (the fictional character and not the dog), claimed to feel a pull towards the north/left-hand side of the board. Horowitz, shrugging and smiling, said, "But that's the direction of Poe's house."
Since Poe couldn't be bothered to take a little time out of the rest of forever, Horowitz settled on a more obscure subject. Though now somewhat forgotten, the 19th century spiritualist and philosopher Andrew Jackson Davis was once a lion on the literary and intellectual scene. Davis's shtick was to enter into a sleep-like trance state, from which his spirit would travel through the ether of forever, gathering up information about the physical world. He first came to fame by using his unique abilities to diagnose sick patients. From the other side of the veil, he could read illness like picture books. And good thing too, 'cause Davis himself had ever had more than about five months of schooling and was utter unqualified to be delivering medical opinions.
Starting in 1845 and stretching over the course of 15 months, Davis would trance-out to gather info from the other side and then return to dictate what he found. The notes from these extra-worldly explorations became the 1847 book The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind. He undertook a moderately successful lecture tour, before returning to the pen. His next work was a six-volume encyclopedic collection of his observations and insights from beyond. He also described his close friendships with Galen, the Greek physician, and Swedenborg, the Swedish mystic. Apparently, on the other side, all three became buddies.
Davis would publish some 30 more titles before his death. Depending on how generously one reads his books, he could be said to predict the discovery of Neptune and Pluto (though not, I think, the degrading status to which Pluto has fallen, which I feel is a damning indication of how little astronomers value the essential contributions of the other disciplines) and to have laid out a theory of the origins of life that bears a striking resemblance to Darwin's earliest conceptions of evolution – a feat that's only notable if you reflect that Darwin's earliest writings hadn't had much play on the other side of the pond at that point.
(To be fair, predicting just two planets is sort of small beer. Jonathan Swift, in his Gulliver's Travels, accurately "predicted" – read: guessed – the number of Martian moons and even pegged their distances from Mars within six thousand miles – a large distance until you consider that no contemporary telescope could then see them and we're talking about satellites ten and five miles in diameter, 50 million miles away. Earlier Kepler guessed that Mars would have two moons: a "conclusion" he deduced from the "fact" that Jupiter had four moons and only two moons would be mathematically harmonious. Even if you assume that Swift knew of Kepler's guess, Kepler never provided that level of detail. The history of astronomy is filled with WAGs that happen to be correct. Kepler's theory of multiplying moons was basically a WAG and, as it turned out, only his number for the moons of Mars was correct.)
Davis eventually acquired a medical degree and left the spiritualism game to become an herbal remedy purveyor in Boston. He died there in 1910.
Davis, it turns out, did leave us a message. The slightly cryptic:
"Bye 3 2 1"
I should add, in case you wish to crack the meaning of this puzzle from beyond, that it wasn't the letters B, Y, E that were indicated, but the whole word "Bye." For those unfamiliar with the Ouija board, the product has the letters of the alphabet; the digits 1 to 9 and 0; and the words "yes," "no," "good," and "bye." The current commercial product evolved from homemade Ouija boards that could include anything the boardmaker wanted. How those four words were settled upon is a bit of a mystery.
Song title: Mitty Collier's I Had a Talk with My Man Last Night
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